BUFFALO, NY, ( Aug. 2, 2011 – release ) BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York is donating $1 million to the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy in an effort to restore, repair and maintain the basin in Martin Luther King Jr. Park.
Families and children living in the City of Buffalo and on the East Side will have access to free, healthy activities and programs year-round starting in the spring of 2012. The 10 year commitment, which closes the project’s funding gap, is part of a broader effort by the health insurer to help improve the health and well-being of all Western New Yorkers.
The five-acre concrete basin, which is approximately the same size as the entire HSBC Center, is one of the largest splash pad facilities in the nation. Current project designs call for the basin to be used as a reflective pool in the spring and fall, splash pad in the summer and skating rink in the winter.
Thomas Herrera-Mishler, CEO of Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, said the project at the park at Best Street and Fillmore Avenue is a long-standing need. He said that the region’s largest health insurer’s support and leadership to see it gets done is an immense benefit for the city.
“This is a very unique partnership for us as BlueCross BlueShield literally wants to walk with us and help us achieve our goals,” said Herrera-Mishler. “Like many cultural organizations, budgets are tight and we need to maintain 1,200 acres of historic parks and parkways throughout the City. Sadly, we have ever-rising maintenance costs and problems with graffiti and vandalism at all of our parks every week; repairs and upkeep are costly.”
BlueCross BlueShield has not only stepped in to complete the needed project, the basin will become a designated ‘Healthy Zone’ for the next 10 years to guarantee families and children have access to physical activity in a historic park system.
“BlueCross BlueShield’s mission is to enhance the lives of others, and we have an asset that is accessible to all corners of our community and we want to ensure that families can enjoy this resource fully,” said Alphonso O'Neil-White, president and chief executive officer, BlueCross BlueShield. “ ‘Healthy Zones’ reflect our commitment to support our community in ways that enhance the quality of life for all. We are all about people getting outside, exercising, and living healthier lives. Buffalo is fortunate to have such a historic public park system and we are committed to its continued vibrancy and growth.
“Our goal is to provide funding to ensure the basin opens next spring, so residents of the surrounding neighborhoods have access to healthy activities year-round. Statistics show that vandalism drops by more than 25 percent, as do obesity rates, when ‘active’ parks are placed in neighborhoods. If we provide an outlet for individuals to engage in one healthy activity, they will impact the overall health and wellness of our region.”
With the U.S. Centers for Disease Control recently reporting that obesity rates continue to increase nationally, the need for corporate support to step forward is critical. Research shows that improving health and well-being works best as a bottom up effort and that inspiring people to behavior change most often shows sustainable results.
In June, vandals did thousands of dollars in damages at Delaware Park and throughout the system, leaving it in disrepair just before its busiest season. Numerous small donors, family foundations, HSBC Bank and Labatt USA contributed to repairing the damage. BlueCross BlueShield wants to create a long-term solution that meets the ongoing needs of the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy.
The City of Buffalo and the Olmsted Parks Conservancy have engaged in an innovative public/private partnership in operating the parks. Promoted by the Olmsted Parks Conservancy and the city of Buffalo, the basin project was selected by the Citizens Review Committee for capital project funding in 2009 and 2010, and more than $4 million have been allocated to the project.
The Olmsted parks, designed 135 years ago by Fredrick Law Olmsted, include Cazenovia, Delaware, Front, Martin Luther King, Riverside and South.
“Olmsted’s parks are a priceless legacy and it’s so impressive that a leading corporate citizen, especially one that concerns itself so fully with healthy living, would step up to support Martin Luther King Park and the major project it needs so people can improve and continue their good health,” Herrera-Mishler said.
Olmsted, the nation’s most noted landscape architect, designed parks in nearly every major city in the country. But his work in Buffalo – the first park and parkway system designed and built in the United States – is considered some of his best work, according to the conservancy.
About Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy:
The Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy is a not-for-profit, independent, community organization that promotes, preserves, restores, enhances, and ensures maintenance of Frederick Law Olmsted-designed parks and parkways in the Greater Buffalo area now and for future generations. In 2008, the Conservancy released its Plan for the 21st Century, a blueprint for the management and restoration of the entire park system. Listed on the National and State Register of Historic Places, the Olmsted system in Buffalo is the first of its kind in the nation designed by America’s greatest landscape architect. The major Olmsted Parks in Buffalo are Cazenovia, Delaware, Front, Martin Luther King, Jr., Riverside and South Parks. Visit www.BFLOParks.org for more details.
About BlueCross BlueShield of WNY:
BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York is one of New York’s leading health care companies that provides access to quality health care and innovative solutions for members throughout New York state. Located in Buffalo, NY, the company is an independent Licensee of the BlueCross BlueShield Association.